I have not written a piece like this for a while but the current injury crisis combined with the fast approaching winter window has sucked me in. So here comes one of my speculative blogs on what may happen and who it might involve. As so often in the past this will be based on some knowledge, a few whispers and 19 years of getting to know Arsene Wenger (not personally!) This combination called the transfers of Arteta, Giroud and highlighted Schneiderlin as a target in March 2013 so who knows…
Will the Crystal Ball return to 1ND2OU? Not sure about that but of all the current speculation I believe the most serious and with foundation is the one linking us with a Crystal Palace player. In particular the stories suggesting Arsenal are lining up a bed for to their combative Scottish central midfielder James McArthur. The word ‘Unfashionable’ seems to be the tag used to describe the 28 year old enforcer when he is discussed as an Arsenal target. I can think of a few more adjectives that may be more appropriate – Good value, Premier League experienced and potentially available.
There is no doubt in my mind that Wenger was undecided about adding a big name defensive midfielder in the summer for fear of upsetting Francis Coquelin. The indecision ultimately cost him as I understand the deal for Grzegorz Krychowiak was all but done and fell through. What he could and should have done of course was bought in another player to compete with the Frenchman but he failed to do so and has found himself relying on Areta or Flamini, the latter who he publicly tried to sell. Perhaps his indecision might have been more understandable has Wilshere been fit for the start of the campaign. Jack himself feels he can lay the deep role and he had done so for England, albeit more in a diamond. However Wenger had enough time after he knew Jack was injured to bring in the new player all the supporters wanted and felt we needed.
Of course whilst this is the same water running under the same transfer window bridge the worst case scenario has occurred and Wenger has lost the services of Coquelin for 3 months. Add to this he has been deprived of his current partner Santi for a similar time frame and the aforementioned Jack Wilshere will not be rushed back until January. Arsenal face Sunderland this weekend therefore with arguably only 2 fit players able to play together in the double pivot behind Ozil and to stay in the title race, where we are still second favourites he will need reinforcements.
Despite all this, the same dilemma, even if the fans don’t see it as such, exists for Wenger as he does not want spend big on a player to replace Coquelin at present, added to which he hates the January window. His loyalty is admirable to many and frustrating for just as many but it means he is far more likely to buy/loan a shot term fix as he did with Källström in January 2014 than buy big.
All the above for me at least adds credence to what I am hearing about James McArthur who is performing consistently well for Crystal Palace alongside Cabaye in a similar role to the one Coquelin has alongside Cazorla. For many Gunners his ex-partner at Wigan James McCarthy might seem preferable but as Chelsea found to their cost in August Everton are no longer a selling club. Palace too have money but are perhaps less able to resist a reasonable bid for a player who undoubtedly has ambitions to play at a higher level. Suggestions are that £10 million would see the deal done.
The simple fact that Eagles gave the player a pay rise and an extension after only one season tells a positive story not just in how highly they value the player but also in that it perhaps acknowledges a need to increase the value if a bigger club came knocking. The facts suggest that the player only extended by one year and this might also hint at his own ambitions. McArthur himself is certainly on record as saying he knew other clubs were interested in him last summer. The Scot is now 28 and arguably approaching his peak seasons and he has not missed a match for Palace this campaign. Indeed he was not injured once last season to my knowledge and played virtually all of the games. Last season he played more advanced and this season he has sat back more and he seems equally comfortable in either role which given Arsenal’s injury record gives additional appeal.
Another factor in Arsenal’s favour is that Pardew, unlike Wenger is not short of central midfield options and has his club captain, once of the most consistent DMs in the league last year, Mile Jedinek on the bench each week. Alongside his skipper is Joe Ledley who has played more games for Wales this season than he has for Palace. I am sure the Welshman with the Euro’s this summer is desperate to be playing week in week out and will be banging on his manager’s door.
None of this is likely to excite the Arsenal faithful but I am sure most can not only see the logic in buying a player who can arrive and literally slot straight into a system he is already playing in a league he knows and it is a deal that has ‘Wenger’ written all over it. It was this time last year the majority of the Arsenal fans thought that Francis Coquelin was ill-equipped to do a job for this team after all.
There is another deal that I believe is potentially on the table in the background that may appeal slightly more to some and is not actually unrealistic, although this one maybe for the summer. This may be more speculative but Javier Mascherano who turns 32 next summer, may well be seeking one last challenge and that just might be in London.
Barcelona are not financially well off and will be looking to offload players at the end of the season and one of their big 3, probably Neymar will need to be sold. With others is it less about the transfer fees and more about the wages and the veteran Argentinian could well be happy to depart. Whilst his contract runs until 2018 there is a buy-out clause mutually agreed and this could be as low as £5 million.
Wenger once would never buy or offer contracts to players over 30 but he has relaxed that in recent times. Javier Mascherano went to Barcelona knowing the best player in the world in his position, in Busquets, played there and he has carved out a new role for himself in the centre of their defence. Now he is equally adept at Centre Back or in defensive midfield and at 32 would not necessarily expect to start week in week out as either. However he would bring with him a wealth of experience and a winning mentality to an Arsenal locker room.
I would love to see this deal happen and would liken it to when Man City brought our own Patrick Vieira back to the Premiership in 2009. Paddy was never likely to be a starter each week but in his last season 2010/11 he started 16 games for City and came of the bench on a further 15 occasions. I can only imagine at the huge influence he must have had on his team mates in those last 2 seasons at the Etihad and the season after he finally hung up his boots the players he has mentored and trained with for 2 years won the Premier league. It would be a superb deal for Arsenal to pull off and I am sure discussions will be ongoing as speak!
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